The Italian Noodle Finally Comes Home

Italian Chinese Meal

Any discussion about Italian food in China is bound to curtail into how pasta originated in China over 4,000 years ago[*]. I would say the Chinese have perfected the noodle over years of trial ‘n error, mostly due to their choice of seasonings. (My favorite Chinese noodles to this day are from the north and are pulled thick just prior to being tossed in a savory broth or pan-fried with seafood.)

Getting back to Italia, and the point of my post today, I’d like to show off my new preference for the decades-old family tradition of “Monday Night S’ghetti!” Like with many of the meals I cook I highlight portion control, so you’ll often just need cereal bowls instead of plates. Also, chopsticks are useful in order to take smaller bites and to drain excess oil from your food.
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Portions and Plate Sizes

portion control
Less is More

I hadn’t realized that my serving sizes were getting smaller until my first return home from China around Christmas of 2005. I remember waking up and going into the kitchen to make some cereal. I pulled the box out and began to let the Honey Bunches of Oats fly! Then, I realized that filling the bowl half way was the same amount that filled my bowls in China. My portions had nearly halved while I was away.

Then, as the day went on, I realized that our plates had dwarfed the food I was putting on them. There was no way to fill the plate completely. At dinner, I watched my family eat and I decided that our servings are really big in America. Restaurants also use huge plates and a dinner at La Carreta (my family’s favorite Mexican place) was so big that I had a full lunch the next day. Two meals for $11 isn’t bad! One meal that is the size of two, unfortunately, is bad… and is the norm.

How did our portions get so big? Perhaps it is a chicken and egg story, but modern commentary agrees that the bigger your container, the more you fill it, and the more you eat.  Take a look at my normal lunch portion which costs $1 at the university canteen. When I move back to the US, someday, I’m definitely going to buy smaller plates and bowls.

Have you noticed this issue in your kitchen cupboards?

Meat as a Garnish

Meat as a garnish
Meat as a Garnish

The big question here is about portion control through cooking. You will allow you and your family to consume less meat, and enjoy food more!

From this day forward, you should start looking at meat the same you look at salt and pepper. They are seasonings, flavorings, or whatever you use to give food a bit of a kick. Trust me- you will still consume meat, but it won’t be 1/2 or 3/4 of your meal. (Exaggeration? Think about what you ate for dinner over the past 2 nights.)

Try this: ONLY eat meat when you have sliced it into bite-sized pieces and cooked it with a vegetable. Not only will you enjoy the meat with more bites, but you’ll enjoy eating vegetables! Try some of the meat/vege recipes on this blog, like Sausage and Green Beans. My meat-loving family consumed 1 sausage and loads of green beans this way, instead of serving each member of the family one full sausage link. Try it and let me know how it went!

Chopsticks or Fork?

chopsticks or a fork
Chopsticks or a Fork or Both!

Ahh, timeless rivals. Which is better? Which one do “civilized” people prefer? Well, its obvious to the common man that the learning curve of a fork is much steeper. It takes two seconds to stab any portion of food with a pronged stick. But, taking 2 sticks and creating a fulcrum with your hand… that is for savages!

Actually, there is a good reason to use chopsticks instead of forks. One reason is that you fill your face more slowly. You will take more bites with chopsticks. What’s the benefit here? You will take more time to let your body react to the amount of food you are eating. If you slop up your food in 5 minutes then you will eat everything that is in front of you. But, if you take 15-20 minutes to eat, your brain will tell you to stop when there is a mountain of food piled in front of you.

In fact, not only should you use chopsticks instead of forks, but you should get smaller plates and bowls too. Again, we tend to fill our bowls and plates (and our stomachs) until the container is full. Learn from this article if you have portion control problems.